If you’ve been around here the last few weeks you might have noticed I’ve been talking quite a bit recently about how expensive college is. One really good way to cut down this cost is to commute to your college classes.
With 77% of students who attend a 2 year school commuting and about 40% of students who attend a 4 year school commuting, you’re in good company of students who want to save money by living at home with their family.
However, that also means that 60% of students who attend 4 year universities live on campus, which can leave you with some serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) of “the college experience.”
I personally live on campus at my university, but about 80% of my closest friends all commute! I received an e-mail from a reader a couple of weeks ago asking if I had any tips for commuter students in college so I reached out to 4 of my commuting friends, and one blogger who commuted back in college, to get their advice.
Here are the most common trends and most helpful tips that they responded with!
Schedule Your Classes Wisely
When you’re living on campus, it isn’t a hassle to schedule your classes with an hour or two break in between.. it actually gives you a great excuse to go take a nap (guilty!) or catch up on some homework.
However, when you’re commuting it can get boring being stuck on campus for a couple of hours with nothing to do. One of the most common things that commuters try to do is to schedule their classes with as little time for breaks in between as they can.
When you do have breaks in your schedule that you can’t work around, make sure to utilize them! Find a nice spot to study in, work on homework, eat some lunch, or meet up with friends.
Afraid to sit alone with nothing to do? My friend Elaine Abarta said: “Always always always have your laptop and your Netflix account on standby. Remember, it’s okay to sit alone at a table.“ Truthfully, people don’t care if you’re sitting by yourself! Everybody has been there, and everybody has weird breaks in between classes that they can’t get around. Don’t worry!
Speaking of sitting alone during breaks between classes… don’t sit alone all the time! It’s super important to go out and make friends. My friend Emma Ofria says: “don’t just sit/ nap/ Instagram in your car during breaks or gaps! Socialize! Make in between class time fun by getting to know more people on campus.“
Pam gave me the great tip of “get involved in a club or organization on campus so you can meet people” as well as “participate in campus events, this will help you feel connected to the college!”
Emma took this one step further by adding “keep up to date on your schools event calendar. Often times commuters are the last to hear about fun gatherings on campus, so this is the best way to stay connected.”
Save Money on Food
If your school is anything like mine, they charge ridiculously high prices for meals at the dining commons if you don’t have a meal plan (I’m talking $15 for lunch.. ouch)! Don’t put up with that.
My friend Emma Ofria says “plan your weeks meals in advance! Meal prep can be fun and it saves you from spending a lot on unhealthy campus snacks! I recommend trader joes premixed salads and kind bars for some quick energy!”
Elaine also backed this up with “packing a lunch seems lame but it’s better than wasting all of your money on expensive food on campus. Trust me.”
In addition to this.. my friend Hailey added: “take advantage of your friends with meal plans (;” It’s true that a lot of meal plans give residents some guest meals or extra money to spend, that could help you feel involved and connected on campus!
My friend Pia also mentioned a money saving idea that “if you can try to find someone you can carpool with.”
Make it fun! Even though I live on campus, at the end of last year I spent a lot of my lunches making impromptu picnics with my friends who commute in the park on campus! Get a group of your friends together, find a pretty place on campus, and make a day out of it.
(Check out the picture above there! That’s Emma on the left, me in the center left, Pia on the center right, and Elaine on the right!)
I’ve never thought of this before.. but as my friend Elaine pointed out: “Your car is your dorm! Keep it clean!”
She recommends keeping some extra supplies in your car so you’re ready for anything. You never know when these will come in handy! Things to start out with are things like: toothbrush, toothpaste, extra clothes, workout clothes, snacks, and water.
While your friends who live on campus can run back to their dorm to change before an impromptu adventure or trip to the gym, it will be much easier for you to go grab stuff out of your car than drive home to change.
Concerned about the Commute?
“Make a good playlist on spotify! Helps the drive go by faster when you’re jamming out to your favorite songs!” – Emma
“Even if you have to wake up super early. It is worth it to get that perfect parking spot.” – Elaine
Need More Ways to Connect with Friends?
“If you can, have school friends over to your house!! If they are living on campus, they will think a little escape would be fun! Plus home cooked meals are a rarity so treat your friends! And it will make you realize that living away from campus can be cool too.” – Emma
“Spending more time on campus and participating in clubs and going to every event really helps meet new people and makes you feel more included with the school.” – Pia
“I would say use the campus as much a you would if you lived there. Study in the library, eat lunch in common areas, print things out on campus, its tempting to eat lunch in your car or study in the quiet of your own home and sometimes its necessary but try to be active on campus.” – Hailey
I’ve noticed from watching my commuter friends that they spend a lot of time on campus outside of classes! Hangout in your friends dorm rooms, schedule study groups with other students on campus, hangout at Starbucks while doing your homework. This will help make it feel more like college and less like high school where you just go to campus only for classes!
Still Scared of Missing Out?
“Living in dorms isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, keep that in perspective. Instead of feeling left out, put your energy into making new friends or joining a club! It will give you the same sense of community as does living near on campus- minus the costs!”
Shoutout to my friends Elaine Abarta, Emma Ofria, Pia Aquije, and Hailey Dorthalina for letting me feature their quotes in this post! Follow them online!
Do you have any tips for students who don’t live on campus? What was your favorite college experience?